States challenge latest EPA, CARB truck emissions rules

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Updated May 16, 2024

Two separate lawsuits filed Monday, May 13, challenge regulations imposing electric-vehicle mandates on truck owners across the U.S.

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers is leading multi-state coalitions in the two lawsuits challenging both the Biden Administration and the state of California.

The first lawsuit challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s Phase 3 Greenhouse Gas emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. A coalition of 24 states filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to challenge the new regulation.

[Related: Senate okays aging diesel fleet renewal grants, rebates

A separate coalition of 17 states and the Nebraska Trucking Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California that seeks to block the California Air Resources Board’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule that requires a transition to zero-emission trucks.

“California and an unaccountable EPA are trying to transform our national trucking industry and supply chain infrastructure,” Hilgers said. “This effort -- coming at a time of heightened inflation and with an already-strained electrical grid -- will devastate the trucking and logistics industry, raise prices for customers, and impact untold number of jobs across Nebraska and the country. Neither California nor the EPA has the constitutional power to dictate these nationwide rules to Americans. I am proud to lead our efforts to stop these unconstitutional attempts to remake our economy and am grateful to our sister states for joining our coalitions.” 

[Related: What EPA's Phase 3 GHG regs mean for trucks]

As reported, EPA’s Phase 3 GHG regs set strict emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks covering model years 2027 through 2032. It requires, among other things, a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions from all sleeper tractors sold in 2032. The rule does not specify any particular emissions solution for truck makers in its rules, maintaining its promise of a "technology-neutral" approach. However, it will be difficult for manufacturers to hit emissions benchmarks without sales of either hybrid, battery-electric or hydrogen-electric trucks, many watchers believe.

The states’ petition for review of the EPA’s rule claims that it “exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.” The coalition asks the court to declare the rule unlawful and to vacate the final rule.

In addition to Nebraska, attorneys general from the following states joined the lawsuit against the EPA: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Phase 3 regs are also under fire from members of Congress, who recently introduced Congressional Review Act resolutions in both chambers of Congress attempting to block the rule.

[Related: Congressional resolutions would kill EPA's latest truck emissions mandates]

CARB’s ACF rule, finalized in April 2023, requires all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold or registered in the state to be zero-emission by 2036 and requires all trucks to be zero-emission by 2042. It applies to fleets performing drayage operations, those owned by state, local, and federal government agencies and "high priority fleets." High priority fleets are defined as entities that own, operate or direct at least one vehicle in California, and that have either $50 million or more in gross annual revenues, or that own, operate, or have common ownership or control of a total of 50 or more vehicles (excluding light-duty package delivery vehicles).

The states’ California suit claims the rule “violates the Constitution and threatens our nation’s economic security.” The states claim that the rule “masquerades as a rule for in-state conduct,” but due to California’s large population and international ports, the rule “exports its ‘in-state’ ban nationwide, creating harms which are certain to reach” the states of those challenging the rule.

Forcing the removal of internal combustion trucks from fleets “will inevitably disrupt the supply chain for all manner of goods, slow interstate transportation, raise prices on goods across the country, and impose costs on taxpayers and governments around the country,” the lawsuit added. “It is a misconceived and nationwide policy executed without the blessing of Congress or the consent of elected leaders in affected states.”

[Related: California banning diesel truck sales in 2036]

The states argue that ACF is barred by the U.S. Constitution, the Clean Air Act and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (F4A).

The states are seeking to have the court declare the rule is preempted by federal statutes, violates the Constitution and is unenforceable, and to issue an injunction to block California from implementing or enforcing the rule.

In addition to Nebraska, attorneys general from the following states joined the lawsuit against CARB’s ACF: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Additionally, the Arizona State Legislature and the Nebraska Trucking Association joined the lawsuit as well.

This lawsuit against ACF is just the latest in a string of legal challenges looking to derail the rule. The California Trucking Association, Western States Trucking Association, and a group led by former U.S. Attorney General William Barr have all filed suit against the state challenging the rule.

[Related: California sued, again, over Advanced Clean Fleets rule]

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